Thursday, June 25, 2009

Jun 24 | On US-Venezuelan Relations: Back to the Past? Not for long!

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PMBComment: The US and Venezuela announced today that, in terms of diplomatic representatives, they would return to the situation that existed prior to the unwarranted expulsion of US Ambassador Patrick Duddy (Sep. 11, 2008).

On Friday afternoon Ambassador Bernardo Alvarez resumes - with no fanfare one hopes - his post as Venezuela's envoy to Washington, and AmbassadorDuddy is expected in Caracas shortly thereafter. This solution - rather unusual in the case of diplomatic expulsions - is a crafty and expedite way to reestablish high level diplomatic contact between the two irreconcilable countries. It would have been time consuming (and risky) to put a new US envoy through a Senate confirmation process likely to ventilate the wide schism that exists currently between both countries. None of the issues that are of deep concern for the US: drugs, FARC/ELN, relations with Iran and other non-Latin terrorist entities, money laundering, human rights, democracy (for now sadly in this order), are ever going to be discussed with Mr. Chávez who does not delegate foreign affairs to measly Ambassadors and who as a consummate meddler is very sensitive to anyone breathing down his militaristic neck.

Good intentions aside, the bumpy (and soon to be bumpier) path that US policy has taken in the case of North Korea and Iran is likely to be repeated verbatim with Venezuela. Mr. Obama charted a course with all three countries that one can compare to the last breath a free diver takes before plunging into the ocean. It provides just enough oxygen to survive under water for a very short span of time and soon enough the diver has to reach the surface and go back to a normal terrestrial existence. Holding your breath is no alternative for governing from 1600 Pennsylvania as the recent wake up call from not-so-accommodating Iran painfully demonstrates. Thugs of all stripes see charm offensives and mea culpas as fabulous windows of opportunity to strike while the enemy is "deep underwater". Mr. Chávez has been particularly capricious and abusive since that big smiley handshake in Port of Spain. He could well assume that normalization means just a bit more wiggle space and precious time to suffocate - unabated - a nation that he has failed miserable at governing.

Finally, I would recommend Mr. Duddy travel light to Caracas. People with Mr. Chávez's pathological profile tend to see a cheek turned as another great opportunity to strike. It will not be too long before Mr. Obama has to come back for air on Venezuela and Mr. Duddy will then be back - for good - in the US of A. PMB


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